NICB 2012 Hot Wheels multivu. Image courtesy of NICB.

NICB alarmed by stolen key code auto thefts

Auto theft is at its lowest level since 1967, but the growing use of stolen key codes to obtain duplicate keys is an alarming trend, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

NICB today released Hot Wheels − the report listing 10 vehicles stolen most often in the US. The report analyzes data submitted to the National Crime Information Center arriving at the makes, models and years most frequently stolen in 2011.

"While overall thefts continue to decline, we are seeing a trend toward increases in the thefts of late model vehicles − ones that are theoretically harder to steal due to sophisticated key code technology," said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle.

We spoke with Todd Bondy of Murray Motor Imports in Denver about how this was possible.

“They were coming in with VIN numbers and ordering a new key,” he said, “but we’ve stopped that by requiring them to bring in their registration before issuing a replacement.”

So if the word gets around, such thefts will hint at a complicit showroom or employee. However, such codes are probably stored somewhere in the cyberspace and there’s no guarantee anything there is truly safe.

If there’s any justice, such thefts will be a temporary thing – it’s bad enough to lose your Civic or Camry, but for thieves to drive away in a new Mercedes-Benz or Audi you’ve only had a month or so is a crime of cosmic proportions.

"Today's vehicle thieves are typically professional criminals who have figured out how to get the key code for a specific vehicle, have a replacement key made, and steal the vehicle within a matter of days. We are aware of nearly 300 thefts that took place in the first three months of this year in which we believe replacement keys using illegally obtained key codes were used to steal the vehicle. We are working closely with our member companies, law enforcement, and the vehicle manufacturers to track these illegal key code transactions and stop the thefts or recover the stolen vehicles before they can be resold here or shipped out of the country to be sold overseas."

That’s the real danger with premium vehicles in port cities where a new Audi R8 Spyder, or any other pricey and desirable ride, can be driven into a cargo container and loaded onto a ship in a matter of hours.

NICB recommends you always lock a vehicle and take the keys, have an alarm, immobilizer and a tracking device.

Even the most savvy and professional thieves are opportunistic, so the best course is simply not to make auto theft easy.

Share this content.


Sign-up to our email newsletter for daily perspectives on car design, trends, events and news, not found elsewhere.